“And Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva and went to Charan. He encountered there the place…” (11:12)
Judaism teaches that when a person tries his best to become closer to G-d, he will receive assistance from Above.
In this week’s Torah portion, we see how far that assistance goes.
There’s a saying in English, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain” (attributed to Francis Bacon, in Essays, 1625).
For Yaakov Avinu, however, the mountain came to him.
Our Sages understand that the deeper understanding of the verse, “He encountered the place…” as meaning that Mount Moriah, the site of the Beit Hamikdash, was uprooted from its place and came towards Yaakov as far as Beit El. (Rashi in Tractate Chullin 91b explains that the word “encounter” – pogga – denotes two entities moving toward each other.)
However, why should Mount Moriah be uprooted now? Hadn’t Yaakov already passed it on his journey to Charan? Why didn’t G-d halt Yaakov when he arrived there?
The answer is if Yaakov passed by the site of the Beit Hamikdash and did not stir himself to pray at that place, why should Heaven detain him there?
Yaakov Avinu was 63 years old when he set out to Charan. He had not slept in a bed for the last fourteen years while learning in the Beit Midrash of Shem and Ever. When he finally reached Charan he had just completed an extremely long journey from the south of Eretz Yisrael, a route far longer than that from the North. Nevertheless he did not want to rest even for a second.
All this because he feared he might not be able to correct the failure to exploit his opportunity of praying at the site where both his father and grandfather had prayed.
He immediately set out back to Mt. Moriah.
Only when Yaakov himself made up his mind, despite his exhaustion, to return to the future site of the Beit Hamikdash, and came back as far as Beit El, did G-d perform a miracle and transport Mt. Moriah to him.
For someone who does his maximum to elevate himself, even mountains will be uprooted.
- Sources: Rashi to 28:17; Rabbi Rubman in Zichron Meir as seen in Lekach Tov; Rabbi E. E. Dessler in Michtav M’Eliyahu, Part 2, page 70